What this blog is for and about

I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

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22 November 2013

Language learning by innuendo

The word “nuts” has more than one meaning in English. I therefore wondered what the BBC meant when they posted this headline today: “Eating nuts ‘may prolong life’”.
     One meaning of the word relates to the food that monkeys are said to enjoy. Another is more slangy, and is perhaps more politely conveyed by innuendo. There are others, but in order to learn at least these two a good way might be memorise the following simple sentence: “Eating nuts may prolong life, but nailing them to the cobbles in Red Square will surely shorten it.”
     Is that clear?

20 November 2013

When prose became poetry

Another “must”—this time a radio programme about Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg address, delivered at the turning point of the American Civil War. The programme focuses on the form of the speech, and how Lincoln used the English language to such powerful effect. He allowed himself just 270 words (less than most press releases today) to describe the aims of modern government, as properly understood. It had international resonance at the time, and is still remembered as one of the most important political speeches of the modern age. It was also a literary masterpiece, having the qualities of poetry in the apparently plain prose. 
     This programme describes all this very well. I highly recommend it.

14 November 2013

A "must read" from today's Financial Times

This seems to me to be not only the truth but a fundamentally important point for all modern languages:


Sorry to have posted nothing recently, but I have been away enjoying life in Scotland, writing a novel of startling brilliance and exploring the fabulous depths of Siberia. Some of the results of that last enterprise can be seen at this link: http://voiceofrussia.com/radio_broadcast/28742746/249777798/

More to follow.